Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to chronic inflammation of the digestive tract tissues. There are two main types of IBD:
- Ulcerative colitis: This condition involves inflammation and the formation of sores (ulcers) along the lining of the colon and rectum.
- Crohn’s disease: This type of IBD is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract lining, which can affect deeper layers as well. Crohn’s disease commonly affects the small intestine but can also involve the large intestine and, rarely, the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Typical symptoms of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss.
While IBD can be a mild illness for some individuals, it can be debilitating and even life-threatening for others. Treatment options such as medications and surgery can help manage IBD flares and induce remission of the condition.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms can vary in intensity and onset, depending on the extent and severity of inflammation. They may manifest gradually or suddenly and can range from mild to severe. Periods of symptom flare-ups are referred to as IBD flares, while times without symptoms are considered remission.
The symptoms of IBD include:
- Abdominal pain: Discomfort or pain in the belly region.
- Diarrhea: Frequent loose stools, sometimes alternating with constipation, or a strong urge to have a bowel movement (bowel urgency).
- Gas and bloating: Excessive gas and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss: A decreased desire to eat and unintentional weight loss.
- Mucus or blood in stool: Presence of mucus or blood in bowel movements.
- Upset stomach: Generalized discomfort or unease in the stomach area.
In some cases, IBD may also present with the following less common symptoms:
- Fatigue: Persistent tiredness and lack of energy.
- Fever: Elevated body temperature.
- Itchy, red, painful eyes: Ocular inflammation leading to eye discomfort.
- Joint pain: Aching or stiffness in the joints.
- Nausea and vomiting: Feeling sick to the stomach and throwing up.
- Skin rashes and sores (ulcers): Skin lesions or open sores.
- Vision problems: Issues with eyesight or visual disturbances.
If you notice a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you exhibit any of the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease, it is important to consult with your doctor. While inflammatory bowel disease is typically not fatal, it is a serious condition that can potentially lead to life-threatening complications.
The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected as potential triggers, but they are now understood to aggravate the condition rather than being the primary cause. IBD is thought to result from an immune system malfunction, where the immune response intended to combat an invading virus or bacterium mistakenly attacks the cells in the digestive tract. Genetic factors also play a role, as certain gene mutations have been associated with IBD. Additionally, heredity contributes to the disease’s prevalence, although most individuals with IBD do not have a family history. In summary, IBD is likely a result of a complex interplay between immune system abnormalities and genetic predisposition.
- Family history. If you have a close relative who has the condition, such as a parent, brother, or kid, your risk increases.
- Age. The majority of IBD sufferers are identified before they are 30. However, some people don’t start showing symptoms until their 50s or 60s.
- Race. IBD can affect persons of any race, even though it is more common among white people. Other races and ethnicities are also experiencing an increase in cases.
- Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is a significant controllable risk factor for the development of Crohn’s disease, while it may potentially offer some protective effect against ulcerative colitis. Nevertheless, the detrimental impact of smoking on overall health surpasses any potential benefit, and quitting smoking can greatly enhance the overall well-being of the digestive tract, along with numerous other health advantages.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Certain medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, diclofenac sodium, and similar ones have been associated with an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or exacerbating the condition in individuals who already have IBD.